year 2015 archives

Transitioning – Hello 2016

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December 31, 2015

While everyone is celebrating New Year’s Eve I’m taking a moment to reflect on the last twelve months. In one short year so much has happened. Weddings. Graduations. Illnesses. Deaths. Loss. Relocation. I might be tempted to write a sappy blog about the highs and lows of a hellish year, but all I feel is gratitude.

Tonight as I tip my champagne glass at the television, I say to my husband, “Just once I’d like to do that.”

He stares blankly at the TV. “What?”

“Watch the ball drop at Times Square.”

He turns toward me. “Really.”

No, I guess not. That’s a lot of people. Over a million, the commentator claims. People yelling and pushing and probably exhausted from standing in line for thirteen hours to save a spot. But there really was a time when I would have stayed up all night to join that crowd and welcome in the New Year, to dance and sing with Frank Sinatra, “New York, New York.”

But not anymore. If I were to make that trip today I would be jet-lagged and ill. The change in altitude would rev up my Meniere’s disease sending my head spinning. Nonetheless, it would have been an exciting way to welcome in 2016.

This time last year I was sitting with family in a vacation rental near Moolack Beach. We call it our Griswold Family Christmas. Most of us were sick. To make matters worse a valve in the holding tank was broken. Baby Ellie was sick. So were her parents. There was an ocean full of water outside but inside there was not a drop to drink. Twice we drove into Newport for water. We bought all the bottled water Thriftway carried, then hit up Safeway and Fred Meyer’s. In more ways than one it was the Christmas from hell. We tried to laugh, but we were miserable and ready to go home. By 10 p.m. we were all in bed, our plans to celebrate the New Year abandoned.

Fast forward a year and once again I have an opportunity to welcome in the New Year on the Oregon Coast. But this time I’m eating fresh crab and sipping champagne. There is no vacation rental; there is no broken valve. There is plenty of fresh water. This year our family Christmas was awesome instead of a disaster. Celebrating with our son and family in Happy Valley we baked cookies, beaded snowflakes, and drove into Portland to see the lights at Peacock Lane as well as the red and green lights on the bridge. We celebrated the Winter Solstice at Milwaukie’s Riverfront Park, sang carols, drank hot chocolate around a huge bonfire, and watched the fire reflect in the water. Everything was magical; it truly felt like Christmas.

That Griswold Christmas seems a long time ago. So much has changed. Now when I open my front door I hear the ocean instead of traffic. While friends in Idaho bundle up against single digit temperatures and inches of snow, the ground in my front yard has yet to freeze.

“Happy New Year.” I clink my husband’s glass as he heads off to bed. It’s 9 p.m. We’re not going to make it to midnight.

Welcome to Newport I hum as Kathy Griffin and Cooper Anderson razz each other at Times Square. I laugh at one of their jokes. The camera zooms in on the ball. The crowd behind them cheers.

I tip my glass toward the TV and finish my champagne. I am warm. I am happy. I am safe.

I turn off the television and put Emily, Riley, and Boo to bed. “Happy New Year,” I pat them on their heads as I retire. They waggle their tails. I turn out the lights.

I am filled with gratitude.

I am filled with awe.

I am humbled.

 

Transitioning – Welcome to Winter

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When I moved from Idaho to Oregon my biggest fear was how well I would adapt to the wet climate. I’m a sunshine girl. I’ve spent most of my life living on a high desert plain. I know about wind. I know about dry air. But I knew nothing about wet and gray. That nagging voice in my head kept harping, You’re not going to like it. You’re not going to like it.

But this week as I watch the temperatures in Jerome, Idaho, drop to below zero, I’m not so sure. Here in South Beach it’s a misty 52°. Last night temperatures dipped to 45, not 18. This week I didn’t have to wake to -1°. And yesterday I was able to get outdoors and take a walk between raindrops without snow boots and gloves. The air was fresh; the roads were wet, but not icy. And this is December.

Idaho Decembers can be treacherous, especially the first snowfall and freeze. Cars run off the freeway, pileups happen, summoning a parade of tow trucks until people slow down. December in Oregon is also dangerous. There may not be snow on the road, but there is plenty of freezing rain. You can drive along at normal speed and then bam! you round a corner and hit ice. I’ve had my share of driving winter roads. I know how to maneuver. But between you and me, I prefer snow-covered to ice. Ice is impossible, even with chains.

So though some thing’s change, some things stay the same. It’s winter, and time to take it easy. Maybe it’s nature’s way of telling us to slow down and enjoy the season.

Happy-Holidays

 

 

My life in seven years.

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#14. Your life in 7 years.

What’s that you ask? My life in seven years? Hmm. What will my life look like or what will have transpired between 2015 and 2022?

The first thing that comes to mind. Will I still be walking Earth when I turn seventy-two? What’s that you say? I have a fifty-fifty chance? Hmm.

My mother passed at age 63 of causes unknown but suspected relating to high blood pressure and hypertension. She died sometime in the night and from the drugs found on the kitchen counter, the coroner suspects she may have had some pain that sent her in search of her meds. A heart attack, maybe. No autopsy, so we’ll never know. The last year of her life wasn’t so great, being married to an alcoholic who broke her arm the day before Thanksgiving. Still, she loved him in that way women do when they settle. I suppose she was as happy in her relationship as she allowed herself to be. I suppose she was content to spend hours on the sofa crocheting while she watched TV.

My father died at age 78 from complications related to kidney failure. The last week of his life was filled with excruciating pain and I remember him popping pain killers like M & Ms. They didn’t help and there’s no doubt that his passing gave him nothing but relief.

Which brings me back to the question and me sitting here talking with you. Where will I be, what will I be doing the next seven years?

Turning sixty-five was no big deal for me emotionally. In my head I’m still forty. But in the United States sixty-five means Medicare and at my age that’s a milestone because, unlike some of my friends who have aged well, I have struggled with an autoimmune disease and Ménière’s for more than twenty years. I know the meaning of a good day; I don’t have them often. With any chronic illness there are days when you would just rather stay in bed buried deep under the blankets because sleep provides the only comfort, until it doesn’t. What’s that you ask? What’s all this mopey talk about death, pain, and dying? Let me explain.

Time has always been a huge issue with me. Never enough time to read, to work on projects, to take that special vacation, to enjoy my surroundings. Three years ago one of my writing buddies succumbed to cancer. She was writing her memoir and excited about sharing it with the world. By exploring her past she was changing. Acknowledging the wrongs she endured opened her up. She was happier, more friendly, more excited about facing tomorrow. When she passed, still hoping to finish that memoir that explained what it felt like to be the younger sister to a mentally ‘retarded’ brother—her word, not mine—it broke my heart, and I will always remember her as someone who left this earth too soon with work undone. But I suppose that applies to most of us.

What’s that you say? I’m rambling and avoiding the question? Hmm. Perhaps, but I don’t think so. A college professor once posed the question, “Would you like to know when you are going to die?” I was taking a literature in the Bible class. He was staunch Catholic. A few students said, yes, they wanted to know so they could prepare. Others like me had no desire to know.

Here’s the thing. I just made a major life-changing move. Nothing about it was easy even though in my heart I had already left my current home with visions of how wonderful my new home and surroundings would be. Major life-altering realities tornadoed around me, not the least of which were leaving behind specialists who had cared for my husband and me most of our adult lives.

But life is fluid. It ebbs and flows, and when it doesn’t you begin to die. Like my mother. Like my father. Like my writing buddy who was just learning to love herself. Life is not stagnate. You keep moving or you start to decay.

So, you say. Get to the point.

My life in seven years. Yes, I can give you a bucket list.

  1. See New York, Times Square, and the Statue of Liberty.
  2. Publish three more novels.
  3. Take a European vacation with my husband, my son and his wife.

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I know how to make lists. I used to do it all the time. In five years I want to be retired. In ten years I want to visit Spain. But I don’t really expect my life to look like that. With any luck it will look like my life today. Ticking away too fast. Reminding me to declutter. Reminding me to let go of things that don’t really matter. Pushing me to follow a new path and challenging me to enjoy the journey.

But here’s the truth. At this moment, with my dogs cuddled at my side and a pen in my hand, I can think of nothing else I need or want. I can think of nowhere else I’d rather be, not even seven years from now.

 

Transitioning — I ♥ Newport

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Yesterday I received an email from my brother. So, it said, do you still like it there?

Let me think.

I’m headed into the third month in my new house. The boxes are unpacked. Everything has been put away or donated to Goodwill. Most of the pictures are on the wall, with the remaining three in a dining room chair waiting for me to find the perfect place. Finally there is time to take a walk through the wooded neighborhood or sit in front of the window and sip coffee. Finally there is time to take in some community events, which are many.

In spite of the loud clothes my husband sports, we are quiet people. We don’t like a lot of hustle and bustle or big crowds. Newport is anything but quiet during the summer months, but come September vacationers return to their homes and things settle down here. But not too much. In fact, not at all. We’ve discovered there is always something to do on the Oregon Coast. From Lincoln City to Florence, there is always something going on: farmer’s markets, mushroom walks, kite festivals, writing workshops, woodworking classes. This is not a community of old people. This town is very active.

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Newport isn’t as big as Jerome, Idaho, which boasts approximately eleven thousand people. Newport has a population of about ten thousand after tourist season. Newport has a great medical facility and the library is awesome for such a small town. Just this week the Newport Public Library Foundation sponsored author Marja Mills, who spent her day talking to Newport students and then, that night, read from her book and shared with the community what it was like to live next door to Alice and Harper Lee in Monroeville, Alabama. The evening was interesting, and it was free.

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Today the sun is shining. Outdoors it’s a balmy 50 degrees. There is no wind. There is no snow. There is no freeway traffic.

So, to answer my brother. Yes, I still like it here. No, wait, that’s wrong. I not only like it here, I think I’m in love.

Things That Go Burp in the Night

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Booktrope Cover Secrets of the Royal Wedding ChapelKathleen Irene Paterka by Anora O'Connor of A13 Studios

I am pleased to have as my guest today Kathleen Irene Paterka and to participate in the blog tour for her new book, Secrets of The Royal Wedding Chapel. Kathleen is an Amazon bestselling author of numerous women’s fiction novels including Fatty Patty, Home Fires, Lotto Lucy, and For I Have Sinned. While her novel The Other Wife is set in Chicago, Secrets of the Royal Wedding Chapel takes place in Las Vegas. Kathleen lives in Northern Michigan with her husband Steve, where she is busy working on her next James Bay novel. Today we are talking about Halloween. Please help me welcome Kathleen.

Things That Go Burp in the Night

Halloween is a great time for ghosts and goblins, freaks and frights, spooks and scares, and things that go burp in the night.

Burp? Wait, was that a typo? Didn’t I mean ‘things that go bump in the night’?

Nope, I meant burp. As in: I spent all of my post-trick-or-treat Halloween nights burping from all the candy I gobbled up. Trick-or-treating door-to-door has been a staple of American tradition for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, the focus on Halloween was all about trick-or-treating. Halloween has since been hijacked by adults, and is now the second most popular holiday of the year (Christmas remains #1). Spooky decorations and adult-themed Halloween parties gain in popularity every year. But kids still love trick-or-treating. FREE CANDY! What’s not to love about free candy?

Kathleen as baby with Halloween pumpkinKathleen dressed for Halloween, Bonnie Dodge Blog 2015

 

 

 

 

I ate a lot of candy when I was a kid, and Halloween was one of my favorite nights of the year. We used to carry pillow sacks to haul around the candy we collected. Pillow sacks were great; they didn’t break like the regular brown paper sacks from the grocery store. At the end of our trick-or-treating night, my sister and I would dump our pillow sack hauls all over the living room rug and sort through our candy. I usually ignored the candy corn, the wrapped hard candy, the individual Hershey kisses, and went straight for the hard stuff: the little candy bars, especially Butterfingers. I’d devour each and every one of the candy bars before I went to bed. And then the burping began.

Butterfinger Candy Bar for Bonnie DodgeSo did the overeating.

Kathleen as fat teenager eating an ice cream cone, Bonnie Dodge blog

 

 

 

 

Back then, I wasn’t worried about calories. I was eating the candy as fast as I could. And guess what happened? I gained weight. As in, I was one of the chubby kids. A plump baby, a chubby kid, and a fat teenager. By the time I graduated from high school, I weighed 300 lbs. Granted, when you’re 5’11” like I am, it’s easier to carry the weight… but people still noticed. Most of all, I noticed. And I hated myself for being fat. I swore to myself that someday, once I lost the weight, I’d write a book about what it felt like to live fat in a thin world.

It took some years before I managed to achieve those goals. First I had to lose the weight. Part of it (most of it) happened while I was in college. I met my future husband, we married, and eventually had a daughter. Life was good… if you were on the outside looking in. But from my viewpoint (inside, looking out), I was still messed up. I couldn’t deal with the constant dieting, the yo-yo binge eating. Here’s how bad things got: when our daughter was little and would go trick-or-treating, I’d ‘steal’ her Halloween candy after she went to bed. “Who ate my candy?” she’d ask the next morning when she checked her stash. “You must have done it before you went to sleep,” I’d reply. Do you know what it feels like, lying to your own child? The guilt kept me eating. I couldn’t tell my daughter the truth. I couldn’t even tell myself the truth. I ‘played’ with an extra 35 lbs. And finally, one day, after I grew sick and tired of being ‘sick and tired’, I finally said, “No more.”

That was the day – May 29, 1989 – when I turned my back on sugar. That was the end of my Halloween candy binges. And that was the day I started writing the book that had been in my heart for years.

Fatty Patty was my debut novel. It’s the story of Patty Perreault, an overweight school teacher who’s been looking for love at the bottom of a cookie bag all her life. When one gorgeous hunk of a man takes up residence behind the desk of the adjoining 5th grade classroom, Patty decides it’s time for some serious dieting. Add an overweight accountant with romance on his mind to the mix cooks up a recipe for a dieting and dating disaster. Patty needs to learn to put down the fork and give her heart a try if she ever hopes to become the woman she wants to be …emotionally and physically.

Does Patty figure out how to put down the fork? I’ve included an excerpt from the novel for you to see how she struggles with food. Patty loves her chocolate. Saying ‘no’ isn’t easy. Putting down the fork isn’t easy. It’s simple, but it’s not easy. But for today, I’m here to tell you that putting down the fork made a huge difference in my life. I lost the extra pounds 27 years ago, and they no longer haunt me like ‘candy-ghosts-of-Halloweens-past’. No more burping my way through Halloween (or any other holidays). I’m free of food obsession. I can wheel my cart down the candy aisle of the grocery store without being afraid of what might happen. Not only am I sane and happy, I’ve also written five other novels; my latest book, Secrets of the Royal Wedding Chapel, is an October 2015 Booktrope Editions release. For today, I’m living a life beyond my wildest dreams, and every day is worth it.

Halloween candy tastes good, and gives you a sugar high… but nothing tastes as good as being high on life.

Fatty Patty for Bonnie Dodge blogExcerpt from Fatty Patty:

 I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t do drugs. If chocolate is like a drug, I probably qualify for Chocoholics Anonymous. But first, I’d have to be willing to give it up. Which I’m not. I’m not an addict. Besides, everyone deserves a treat now and then. And I’ve been good for so long—how many days now?— and I’ve only lost four pounds.

Tyler offering me that cookie on the playground earlier this morning started the ball rolling. All day long, I couldn’t let go of the thought of chocolate. And instead of hitting the pool on my way home from school, I detoured to an out-of-the-way party store on the other side of town where I grabbed a six-pack of my favorite candy bars. Why? There’s got to be a reason. But at the time, I didn’t want to think about the why. I didn’t want to think, period.

I just wanted the chocolate.

The first candy bar was gone as soon as I hit the car, before I even fastened my seatbelt. I barely tasted it as it slid down my throat and it only whetted my appetite for more. I ripped into the lush caramel and rich dark chocolate of the second one as I nosed the car out of the parking lot. I gnawed through the third wrapper with my teeth as I pulled into traffic.

And now that Priscilla’s finally off to bed, the other three are waiting.

I creep up the stairs, school bag in hand, and slip through my bedroom door. I throw the lock, then flop on the bed in the darkness. Moonlight filtering through the window is my only witness as I peel the wrapper off the fourth candy bar, settle back in the pillows and savor the lush sweetness filling my mouth. I’ve deprived myself far too long. The second gooey bite is even better than the first. Chocolate bliss. I’ve died and gone to heaven.

Polishing off the fifth candy bar takes a little longer. The craving is gone and I force myself to finish. I’m in no rush to unwrap the sixth candy bar. My stomach feels queasy. Maybe it would be better to stash it somewhere and save it for later. But if I don’t eat it now, that one last candy bar will be staring me in the face tomorrow morning… a big gooey reminder of what I’ve done. I rip off the wrapper and stare at the chocolate. Tomorrow, I promise myself. Starting tomorrow, I’ll put myself on a brand new diet. Starting with breakfast.

Food. Ugh. My stomach lurches and I drop the candy bar. My breath reeks of chocolate and I stumble into the tiny bathroom off my bedroom. I use my toothbrush like a weapon, attacking the enemy sugar on my teeth, scrubbing away the contraband. I swish water back and forth under my tongue, around my teeth, spit it in the sink. Somehow I find the courage to face myself in the mirror. It’s not a pretty picture. Hollow, bloodshot eyes; mascara staining my face. I don’t recognize this person.

What is wrong with me? Why in God’s name did I do this? What happened to my resolve? What happened to my dreams of being thin?

What would Nick think if he saw me like this?

No more chocolate. Never again.

I pull off my clothes, drop them in a heap on top of the bathroom scales. Pulling a cotton nightgown over my head, I shuffle back into the bedroom, flop on my bed, and set the alarm. School again tomorrow. If only I didn’t have to go.

If only…

If only I hadn’t given in. Why did I crack? Now I have to start all over again.

What a horrible feeling.

But not as horrible as knowing when tomorrow dawns, there’ll still be that one leftover candy bar taunting me from the bedside table. Suddenly I grab it, crinkle the wrapper around the candy so I won’t smell the chocolate, then toss it in the trash, burying it under some used Kleenex and an old magazine.

I hit the light and try to settle down. Nick’s face dances in the darkness. What is it with him? Why is he being so nice to me? I don’t know anything about men. The three guys I dated in college turned out to be losers. So what do I do now? I’ve never chased a guy in my life. And Nick isn’t just any guy. He’s gorgeous and available—the type who attracts women wherever he goes. Nick is in the big leagues and way beyond my reach.

Isn’t he?

I punch the pillow and flop on my side. If only I looked like Priscilla. If only I could lose ten pounds. If only I had the courage to try.

But I’ll never find it if I don’t get myself back on track.

And back on a diet.

Brand new diet. Brand new beginning. Brand new me.

Starting tomorrow.

I sit up straight in bed. Damned if I want to wake up tomorrow, knowing that last candy bar is hanging around to haunt me.

I fumble through the wastebasket in the darkness. My fingers snag the wrapper, then curl around the candy. I take one bite, force down another. The craving is gone. I’ve already brushed my teeth and the chocolate tastes like chalk. I choke down the last bite, throw away the wrapper, and head back into the bathroom for one more bout with my toothbrush.

This hasn’t been the best day. I’ve broken my diet, upset Priscilla, shamed myself… and all for what? Why did I buy that chocolate in the first place? It’s not like I even wanted it.

What I really wanted was cookies…

 

Thanks for stopping by, Kathleen. I love the pictures.

 

to connect with Kathleen:

Kathleen’s website:                             http://www.kathleenirenepaterka.com

Subscribe to Kathleen’s newsletter:    http://kathleenirenepaterka.com/for-readers/

Find her on Facebook:                        https://www.facebook.com/KathleenIrenePaterka/

Find her on Twitter:                             https://twitter.com/KPaterka/

Find her on Pinterest:                          http://www.pinterest.com/kathleenpaterka/

Fatty Patty on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/FattyPattybyKathleenIrenePaterka

 

 

Transitioning . . . Trial and Error

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The boxes have arrived and I’ve started the daunting task of putting things away. This is the third major move for me, and by far, feels like the hardest. At the Idaho house, I knew where everything was. If I needed a jar of peaches, all I had to do was walk outside to the pantry in the three-bay shop. If I needed a roll of string or a nail, I knew they were in the bottom drawer in the laundry room. Easy peasy. Here, in Oregon, not so much.

Here there is no pantry in the shop. Here the shop consists of a one-car garage crammed with my husband’s yet to be situated table saws, hammers, and routers. Here there is no bottom drawer in the laundry room. In fact, there are no drawers in the laundry room, which is half the size of the laundry room left behind in Idaho.

True, the house in Oregon is larger, a triple wide modular home instead of a double. With vaulted ceilings and an extra living room I can convert into an office, freeing up one of the bedrooms so the grandkids don’t have to sleep on the floor. The Oregon house sits on half an acre instead of ten, and it’s three minutes from the ocean instead of a noisy freeway. In Idaho, I could hear the din of traffic twenty-four hours a day. Here it is the ocean, which is a sound I recorded to fall asleep, and a sound I listen to to write. One “white noise” replaces another, but this white noise is nicer, and here I don’t mind being outside.

It isn’t the outside that is tricky though. It’s the inside, and the cupboards, and where to put everything. The bedrooms and bathrooms aren’t too hard, towels and sheets go in closets, as do the clothes. We were ruthless in downsizing, and here everything fits. No extra blankets to store under the bed. No extra shoes taking up space. Our packing motto, “use it or lose it,” paid off. There isn’t a lot of extra stuff looking for a home.

But it’s the kitchen that’s giving me fits. Yes, I have more cupboards in this kitchen. But they are arranged differently than those in Idaho. There’s a long floor to ceiling cupboard I can use as a pantry. But it’s so deep I have to be careful what I put in the back. And there’s a small cupboard by the stove instead of the double one I am used to that held all my spices.

Moving is like being on an adventure. Open this door, what will you find? And that’s what I’ve been doing for weeks as I adapt to my new home. What doesn’t work so well in one cupboard gets moved to another. What doesn’t get used every day gets moved off the kitchen counter. As I move things around, I feel like I’m spinning, and I’ll be glad when this “moving” part ends.

Moving at any age is hard, but it takes a toll on someone in their sixties. At times I feel like I am playing hide and seek. Like today. It’s time for lunch and I have no idea where I put the salt. I see I put the butter in the cupboard. Hopefully I won’t find the salt in the refrigerator.

Transitioning . . . Welcome to Oregon

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August 8, 2015

The dutiful son and I leave Happy Valley and merge with traffic heading south on I-5. It’s early enough roads aren’t crowded, and no one is tired and enacting road rage. I’ve driven this road before, several times, and the good thing about I-5 is that it’s a straight shot to Salem, no twisty turns to slow the pace.

We take exit 228 toward Lebanon and Corvallis and begin the windy drive toward the coast. According to mapquest, the trip to Newport is 139 miles. By comparison, a trip from Jerome to Boise, Idaho, a 120-mile drive, would take less than two hours. But here the trip takes almost three as the single-lane road winds at a slow 50, 55-mile pace. Idaho recently raised the freeway speed limit to 80 miles an hour, which makes sense in southern Idaho where there isn’t anything to destroy but desert. Here you couldn’t drive 80 miles an hour if you wanted to, not when curves warn “slow down,” and there are almost as many curves as trees. But the drive is beautiful, and every time I make it I think of Lewis and Clark and how primeval everything must have been 200 years ago. Even now, if road crews didn’t trim back foliage, the blackberries, deer fern, and juniper mistletoe would devour the road, and I would be searching for a way through the forest.

I roll down my window and enjoy the pine-scented air. Back in Idaho temperatures are three digits, here it is cooler, and where I am going the average daily temperature is 64 degrees. That’s part of the reason for this move: no more harsh winters and no more blistering summers. But that’s a lie. The reason for this move is simple. I love the ocean. I want to live on the coast.

It seems like fall, and I’m surprised at how the colors are already changing to red and yellow. It’s the drought my son says when I comment. It’s hard to believe this lush land is experiencing a drought, not with all the green around me. But there are signs everywhere with dead trees and straw-colored grass. And I understand drought. In Idaho, everything is brown and much of the terrain is on fire.

I have a lot to learn about this state that supports the right to die, medicinal marijuana, and mandatory recycling. This green state meshes with my personality. I believe in leaving a light footprint, if I must leave one at all. And I love to play in the dirt. My Idaho friends have placed bets. How long will it be before I put my nose in a nursery? Surprisingly, my list is small: star jasmine, blue hydrangea, peace lilies, and a white magnolia, none of which survive harsh Idaho winters.

Even before I pull into Newport, I smell the salt air. I inhale. It’s comforting, and welcoming, and feels like home.

 

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Down the Oregon Trail

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Covered_Wagon_(Baker_County,_Oregon_scenic_images)_(bakD0133)Facebook asks, “What’s on your mind” and my first reaction is, “What mind?” Because there have been times in the last month that I feel like I’ve lost my mind, or rather left it in the gutter somewhere between Newport, Oregon, and Jerome, Idaho.

Sixty-five is a golden age, right? Sixty-five is when you retire and take it easy. That’s what I say to the stranger looking back at me in the mirror. The one who decided sixty-five was the perfect age to take on a new adventure.

This mind-blowing escapade wasn’t planned, but a trip to Oregon to celebrate my grandson’s high school graduation turned into a life-altering event. Tack on two extra days to visit the Oregon Coast and thirty days later I’ve signed an offer on a house, and I’m moving to Oregon.

“What?” my friends say in surprise. My closest friend shakes her head in disbelief, and no one is more surprised than I am.

The last time we moved, we moved to be closer to my husband’s work. We bought a place on ten acres, planted fruit trees, and made our home. Everything here has a place. Here everything is comfortable and settled. Apples and peaches are ripening, and soon squirrels will fight over walnuts and filberts. I should be relaxing with a book, or having coffee with friends. Instead, I’m facing mountains of boxes as I plan my move.

Taping a box of dishes shut, I catch myself singing, Hurry up old pioneer, keep a-movin’, your gallant little band must never fail. Riding side by side ‘cross the great divide, down the Oregon Trail.”

As I sing, I think about the women who made the trek to Oregon over a hundred years ago and how they had to narrow their life into a covered wagon. It’s hard, heart-wrenching work. What to take? What to leave? The task is daunting and often I have to walk away from the packing. I have to take a deep breath and practice meditation to calm my anxiety. Or play a couple hands of spider solitaire, brew a cup of calming tea, and consider a tall gin and tonic.

Moving at any age is scary. But moving at sixty-five feels like nothing I’ve ever done before. Questions ricochet in my head. Am I making the right choice? What about doctors? What about medical insurance? Will I miss Idaho? Will I like the rain?

There is a bright side to my madness. Now, when I want to see my grandkids, I only have to drive two hours instead of ten. Now, when I want to attend a conference in Portland, I don’t have to hassle with airport security. When I want to have a dinner with my son and daughter-in-law, or take in a Broadway musical, I can without having to justify the cost of a two-day trip. And best of all, no more holiday dinners on Skype.

Yesterday a picture came across my Facebook page that said: Stress is two forces moving in opposite directions. Sit still.

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I’m going to keep that in mind the next time I feel my head exploding. I’ll take a deep breath, sip a gin and tonic, and try to sit still. But I’ll also be humming, down the Oregon Trail.

 

Wagon train go rollin’ cross the prairie
Winding onward through the storm and gale
Towards the land of dreams trudge the old ox teams
Down the Oregon Trail

Through the night the Lord is in the saddle
Riding herd beneath the moon so pale
Watching o’er ach stray till the break of day
Down the Oregon Trail

There’ll be cattle on each ranch in Oregon
There’ll be valleys filled with golden grain
There’l be apples on each branch in Oregon
For there’ll be plenty sun and rain

Hurry up old pioneer, keep movin’
Your gallant little band must never fail
Riding side by side ‘cross the great divide
Down the Oregon Trail
-Down the Oregon Trail by Burl Ives

Making Memorial Day a Family Tradition

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When my grandson Dmitri was four, and I told him about Decoration Day, he thought I was talking about Christmas. He’d get excited, thinking about all the things we would do: make and hang ornaments, bake and decorate cookies, tickle, tease, and laugh as we celebrated and enjoyed a family tradition.

Decoration Day meant something else to my in-laws. Each year my father-in-law hibernated in his shop until he had dozens of little crosses to which his wife attached wreaths and flowers. The whole month of May was devoted to frequenting stores, gathering plastic carnations and roses, whatever she could find to adorn the wreaths. Early Memorial Day our extended families gathered and caravanned to graves scattered between Picabo and Shoshone where we erected the decorated crosses in remembrance. Along the way we’d stop for coffee, hamburgers, laughter, and tears.

Here in southern Idaho, Decoration Day often brings a parade of campers leaving town early Friday to get the best camping sites in the forest. To many it signifies the first three-day weekend welcoming summer with a promise of crackling campfires, roasted hotdogs, and s’mores.

Maybe Dmitri was right when he said Decoration Day was like Christmas. Camping by a stream or decorating graves, no matter what we do, Memorial Day is the perfect time to remember those we love, and celebrate the people we’ve been fortunate to have in our lives, a perfect time to enjoy a family tradition.

Facing Another Birthday with Humor

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My son turns forty-two today. I’m filled with gratitude, but I’m also filled with confusion. How did this happen? How can he be forty-two when I am only forty in my head?

I realize each new birthday chokes many with terror. Just last week a friend and I were discussing milestone birthdays over lunch. Her son-in-law was turning thirty and having a really tough time. He didn’t want to celebrate. He didn’t want a party. He wanted to stay home, watch TV, and pretend it was just another day.

Maybe you know people like that, who face each birthday with angst. If you ask them how old they are, they change the subject. They never show their driver’s license, and they refuse to apply for senior discounts, even though they could save a bucket of money.

Not me, there’s gray in my hair for a reason, and that reason isn’t a box representative of the latest glamour fad.

I didn’t attain this age without a few battle scars. Years ago, when my son moved his family to Washington in search of better employment, I was my son’s worst nightmare. I didn’t want a long distance relationship with his family. I didn’t want my grandson growing up without me. Lee Ann Womack’s song, I Hope You Dance, was popular at the time and stuck in my head like a worm as I drove the many miles to see his new home. The day I had to leave, I hugged my son and whispered, “I hope you dance.” He gave me a confused look and said, “I’m a lousy dancer. I have two left feet.” Maybe he was trying to make me smile, or maybe he didn’t get it. Even so, I cried for an hour, tears blurring the lush Washington scenery, before I stopped feeling sorry for myself and pulled up my big girl panties.

I don’t face birthdays with trepidation. In my head, I’m a fearless fortyish female at the top of my game, eager for each new adventure. But sometimes my legs don’t move as fast as I’d like them to. Sometimes, if I spend too much time pulling weeds, it takes a while before I can stand up straight. I don’t eat chili before bed, or indulge in caffeine in the afternoon, and I gave up pretending I could read the fine print without glasses.

But I digress. Today is my son’s forty-second birthday. Perhaps in his mind, he’s still a teenager, eager to be on his own. He is a good father; he is a good son. As he faces each new day, I hope he will make time to dance.

May Flowers

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I am thinking of the lilac-trees,
That shook their purple plumes,
And when the sash was open,
Shed fragrance through the room.

The Old Apple-Tree by American novelist Mrs. Anna S. Stephens

Nothing smells more like heaven than lilacs. Maybe that’s why Manet and Van Gogh were moved to capture their likeness on canvas, and writers like Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and Louisa May Alcott were inspired to put pen to paper. There is something about the sweet-smelling flowers that takes me outside myself, transporting me into a world where I’m reminded of my past, and my future.

As a child, I would lie under the lilac trees in our backyard and inhale deeply while I plucked the sweet blossoms from the branches. One by one I sucked the nectar from the tiny flowerets and nibbled on the petals while I read a book and watched my brothers chase each other. Their heads were in their game, while mine was in the flowers, dreaming of summer clouds and rhubarb pie.

Emily Dickinson wrote,

The Lilacs — bending many a year —
Will sway with purple load —
The Bees — will not despise the tune —
Their Forefathers — have hummed

My mother died in May, just when the lilac trees were bending with purple blooms. That year the fragrance filled my yard with sadness I could taste, just like the sweetness I sucked from the flowers as a child.

I cannot bring back my childhood days anymore than I can bring back my mother. But as bees hum around the lilacs in my yard, I can remember those days with a smile in my heart and inhale deeply. Perhaps that’s what the artists experience when they put brush to canvas and pen to paper. A fine spring day, fragrant with eternal love.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of the 2015 Association of Writers Minneapolis Conference and Bookfair

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I’m not an educator, nor did I have a burning desire to go to Minneapolis in the spring, knowing winter storms ground planes and make life in general just plain miserable

but

I couldn’t attend AWP 2014 in Seattle, which is closer to my home state

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my son had two readings scheduled and invited me along. Being a writer myself, there was no way I was going to say no.

We arrived a day early, and I’m glad we did. I have Meniere’s disease, and any form of travel can set my head spinning. The added day gave my body time to settle down as well as some extra time to get my bearings.

On Wednesday, the first day of registration, the hotel and convention center was like the inside of a beehive.  With over 13,000 registrants, the place was abuzz as writers arrived and networked. It was almost like being in the middle of a great movie.

 

THE GOOD:

 One of the biggest literary writer conferences in the United States

 Opportunities to meet editors, pitch story ideas, and listen to other writers talk about craft

 Over 500 panels to choose from, consisting of readings, discussions, or pedagogy running consecutively from 9 am to 5 pm every day

 A gigantic bookfair manned by every conceivable literary small press including Tin House, The Rumpus, and Prairie Schooner, not to mention the university presses looking for new voices

 Some of the best writers in the United States

 Some of the best educators in the United States

 Offsite readings, book signings, and events

 Karen Russell, Lance Olsen, Pam Houston, Kim Barnes, Robert Wrigley, Lidia Yuknavitch, Cheryl Strayed, Claire Davis, Stephen Graham Jones, and Trevor Dodge, to mention only a few

THE BAD:

 Over 500 panels to choose from, running consecutively with fifteen-minute breaks. Impossible to settle on just one

 A gigantic bookfair with conference specials, writer guidelines, and bling. Extra totes to carry everything home

 Offsite readings, book signings, and open bars wherein you crawl into bed at 2 am too wired and over-stimulated to sleep

 Long lines, incessant chatter fueled by all that writerly energy

 No genre discussions, no Alice Hoffman, Margret Atwood, or Charles Frazier

THE UGLY:

Me the day I leave Minneapolis to fly home, exhausted, my head spinning with thousands of ideas

In this world there’s two kinds of people my friend – those who attend conferences, and those who stay home. You dig?

THE END

Kim Barnes discussing No Country for Good Old Boys
Kim Barnes discussing No Country for Good Old Boys

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Meet Kathleen Irene Paterka

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Kathy and I met years ago on an on-line writers’ group called GIAM. The writers in this group are my go-to pals when I get stumped or need writing advice. It is my pleasure to introduce Kathleen Irene Paterka, a prolific writer, even with a day job.

1) Why did you become a Writer? How did you get started?

I can’t remember a time that I didn’t want to be a writer. My mother got me my own library card when I was six years old. I remember being fascinated with having all those books available to me, and I couldn’t imagine a better world than being surrounded by books. When I was about 8 years old, I fell in love with the Trixie Belden series. I decided then and there that I would grow up and write more Trixie Belden books. My parents got me a typewriter for Christmas, and I was hooked.

2) What is your writing routine? How do you discipline yourself to keep at it?

 I’m up early every morning, at 5 am. By 6:30 am, I’m at the computer and my timer is set. For the next two hours, I concentrate on my current work-in-progress. Marketing and social media also take a considerable amount of time, but I prefer to do that in the evening hours. I do have a day job, just as most writers do (95%, in fact). Mine is rather unique: I’m staff writer at a real American castle where I’m surrounded by romance and royalty. It’s a wonderful life.

3) How many drafts before you feel the book is finished?

My rough draft is where the story magic happens. I am a pantster. When I start writing the rough draft, I’ve done research on my characters, but plot-wise, I usually only know the beginning, the ending, and ‘something-that-happens-in-the-middle’. The rough draft normally takes me 8-12 months (for a 400 page novel), and it’s very complete. I’ll end up with perhaps another 3 drafts, normally done to edit and polish.

4) What was the best thing that happened with regard to your writing career? The worst?

The best AND the worst thing are actually the same thing; it was a rejection letter I received from a well-known editor at a highly respected publishing company. She told me that while she and her assistant editor loved my novel For I Have Sinned, she had to turn me down; the company’s marketing department had informed her that they couldn’t figure out ‘how to sell the book’ because it crossed genres (women’s fiction, inspirational, romance, Christian fiction). When I initially received the rejection letter, I was devastated… but only for a few moments. I realized that the editor had actually given me some very good advice. She told me that many novels which were excellent works had crossed her desk, but ultimately had to be turned down for one reason or another. The editor urged me to find a home for the novel; she felt it was that good, and she suggested that I think seriously about indie-publishing the book. That was the beginning of my career as an indie-author, and I have never looked back. My novel For I Have Sinned went on to final in a few prestigious writing contests, and has received numerous five star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. For I Have Sinned is the book of my heart and I am very proud of it.

5) What part of your job do you love the most? Hate or dislike the most?

I love the rough draft, getting to know the characters, and falling in love with the story line. Being a pantster, I don’t have things plotted on a story board (that would bore me to tears!). So when I’m writing and something exciting or unexpected happens on the page, I’m as thrilled as the reader who’s seeing it for the first time. The thing I hate the most about writing is the editing process. I subscribe to the theory of ‘more is better’, which means I usually end up having to cut lots of words (read: ‘redundant’) from my latest work. I hate seeing words, phrases, paragraphs, and sometimes whole scenes that I worried over eventually end up deleted from the final draft.

6) What do you like to read? Do you read while working on a novel? Favorite authors?

I love a good, emotional read. When searching for a new book, I turn to women’s fiction authors such as Jodi Picoult, Jennifer Weiner, Elizabeth Berg, and Eileen Goudge. All of them are superb storytellers. I also love anything by Stephen King. He is, without doubt, a living literary icon. His masterpiece 11/22/63 is one of my favorite books of all time. When I’m writing a rough draft, I’m careful not to read the type of work that I’m writing (I don’t want to fall under the influence of my favorite writers, and be accused of plagiarism). I often turn to biographies instead.

7) What was the best advice you received as a writer? The worst?

The best advice? “Never, never never quit” (from an author friend, who was quoting Winston Churchill). This is a devastatingly hard business, and you have to find the courage deep inside to keep going, even when those around you are urging you to give it up. The worst advice I ever got came from an editor at a publishing company who told me that I should quit writing… that while I had considerable talent, my voice was ‘scattered’ and unmarketable, and that I should give up and quit wasting my time. Her words served to inspire me to be even more determined to prove her wrong.

8) Who has influenced you the most in terms of developing your personal writing style?

The author Stephen King, because he is not afraid to take chances. He writes for himself; he tells himself a story, and then sets it free in the world for readers to embrace (or not). I like the idea of telling myself a story. I’m writing for myself. If I’m not interested in what’s happening on the page, why should I expect that my readers would be?

9) Do you have a good luck charm or superstition?

The bottom of my computer monitor is lined with scribbled sticky-notes and quotes clipped from inspirational books. They keep me going when my spirits flag. My favorite quote: “Do your work well. Write the stories you were meant to tell.

10) If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

People fascinate me. I always wanted to be a talk show hostess. When I was growing up, I used to practice by interviewing myself.

11) What quote or personal saying do you live by?

“Hope and keep busy.” I don’t think we can do more than that. The quote is from Marme, of Little Women (by Louise May Alcott), which is one of my all-time favorite books.

12) What’s next up for you, writing-wise?

I’m currently researching for my next book, which will be a return to James Bay, the fictional resort community, which is the setting for my first four books (Fatty Patty, Home Fires, Lotto Lucy and For I Have Sinned). The book is about Chuck’s Tavern and Grill, and centers on the restaurant owner, Chuck, who was featured in the other James Bay novels. Each chapter in the new book will feature its own recipe. I’m excited about being able to play with the customers who frequent the restaurant, and involving characters from my earlier James Bay novels.

13) If you could do anything over again, would you and what would it be?

Nothing. I don’t believe in do-overs. I think that we all are given one chance, at each particular moment of our lives, and everything we are, everything we become, hinges on the choices we have made in the past. I am very content with the woman that I am, and the life that I lead. I surround myself with positive people, and I love my life. If I’d had a do-over, I wouldn’t be the same ‘Kathleen Irene Paterka’ that I am today…. But I love who I am. I wouldn’t want it any different.

14) What advice would you give beginning writers?

Don’t give up. Work hard, work smart, work tirelessly. Be tough, be brave and be persistent. All clichés… but when they apply to you and how much you want to realize your dream, they are very appropriate.

15) Something we don’t know about you?

I have a newsletter which hosts a monthly contest (a free giveaway) for subscribers. Sign up for my newsletter (I promise not to flood your In-box with emails!), and you could win a print copy of any of my books.

And: what’d you like us to know about your latest release:

The Other Wife is a women’s fiction novel that deals with issues of death, grief, resentment and revenge. It tells the story of Eleanor and Claire, two women who are horrified to find themselves both married to the same man. The novel begins in Eleanor’s point of view who wakes to find her husband Richard dead in bed beside her. Eleanor, married to Richard for 38 years, is devastated by the discovery. She’s even more horrified to discover, at the end of Chapter One, that Richard was keeping a deep dark secret, and has left all his money to another woman. In Chapter Two, we meet Claire, a 30ish professor of psychology at the University of Chicago. It’s not long into the book before Claire learns that her husband Richard has died… and not only is he dead, he left behind an earlier wife… a valid marriage to another woman. The discovery that her marriage is a sham is a horrible blow to Claire. While Richard has left her all his money, Eleanor is the one who has the title of Richard’s wife, something Claire thought was hers alone. How these two women come to terms with ‘the other wife’ is the basis for the story.

Website:                             http://kathleenirenepaterka.com/

Blog:                                   http://kathleenirenepaterka.com/blog/

Newsletter:                        http://kathleenirenepaterka.com/for-readers/

Facebook:                          https://www.facebook.com/KathleenIrenePaterka

Twitter:                               https://twitter.com/KPaterka

Pinterest:                            https://www.pinterest.com/kathleenpaterka/

Amazon Author Page:      http://www.amazon.com/Kathleen-Irene-Paterka/e/B0081KP1YQ/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

Goodreads:                        https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5826393.Kathleen_Irene_Paterka

Find Kathleen’s latest novel here.

Historical Blog Tour with Tiffani Burnett-Velez

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Sawtooth City, Idaho

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I’m excited to be part of the Historical Novel Blog Tour hosted by writer Tiffani Burnett-Velez. Thanks, Tiffani, for inviting me to participate.

Who you are, where you’re from, your writing credits.

I’m a “farm” girl, raised in North Dakota until age nine, and then moving to southern Idaho. When I say farm girl, I don’t actually live on a farm, but I know how to milk a cow, and I do live on ten acres, mostly pasture. The only animals I keep are three small dogs that I love to pieces. For several years I played with the idea of keeping bees but my husband just retired and we don’t want to take on anything that will keep us from travelling, so that idea is on hold. I’m organic and love to play in the dirt, earning the name Mother Earth from close friends. For twenty-some years I worked in a bank, and when I left my “day job,” I started writing professionally. I started freelancing with mostly nonfiction, then took on a column for AG WEEKLY that I wrote for six years. I’ve written a bit of poetry, but my love is fiction, and particularly women’s fiction. When my hometown turned 100, I published a book of essays commemorating that event. I’ve co-authored several anthologies, a children’s book, and just recently published a book called Waiting, which won the 2014 Idaho Author Awards Top Ten in fiction. My newest novel, Goldie’s Daughter, will be published by Booktrope this summer. I’m excited to talk about this book and its development.

What is your latest historical fiction piece?

Goldie’s Daughter begins in the Idaho mining camps in 1882. Goldie was the town prostitute and the story is actually about her daughter, Emily, and how Emily overcomes her reputation as a prostitute’s daughter.

Why did you choose to write it?

We have a cabin in Featherville, Idaho, near the mining camps of Rocky Bar and Atlanta. Featherville was actually near a mining camp too named Esmeralda. As we spent summer vacations there, we wandered the mountains and learned more about the mining history. I heard about a woman named Peg Leg Annie. That started me thinking. What if I was Peg Leg Annie’s daughter? What if I had to grow up in a mining camp? That’s how the idea for the novel evolved.

What about that era appeals to you?

I love everything Victorian, and this is just at the end of the Victorian age. My favorite pastime is haunting old cemeteries and Victorian mansions. I love the West and the open spaces and how where a person lives affects the way they live. My character Emily has a tough time in the mining camps and thinks things will get better once she travels to a more civilized town. But when she gets to St. Louis, she discovers civilized society can often be harder to navigate then the gritty mining camps.

Are your characters real or fictional? If they’re real, how did you fictionalize them?

All of my characters are fictional. I did use the real person, Annie Morrow, as the inspiration for Goldie McIntyre, but everything is fiction. I did use real names for the towns to ground the story.

What kind of research is involved in writing your novel?

Tons. I read everything I could find about the Idaho mining camps and transportation in the late 1800s. I visited local libraries. For libraries I couldn’t visit, like in St. Louis, I corresponded through mail and email. I even purchased an old Webster’s dictionary to make sure I was using words common to the era, words my characters would use. I also conducted interviews and read old newspapers.

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How do you organize the fictional aspects of your writing vs. the historical facts?

I kept historical dates accurate but I changed some of the names, like Sawtooth City became Saw Tooth City. I studied historical events and made sure the same things happened in my story. For instance, an article I read about a Forth of July parade in Rocky Bar became material for a scene in the book. Traveling troupes were popular at that time, and I made sure a travelling troupe visited the mining camps.

How does the historical timeline move your plot along or influence the actions of your characters?

One of the things I wanted to do was show the differences between people who lived in “polite society” vs those growing up in the mining towns. Dirt roads vs roads paved in brick. Full pantries vs the meager food found in mining camps, especially in winter when supplies couldn’t be delivered. And how transportation impacted the way people lived and moved about the country, much of which was still undeveloped.

How do you feel about writers taking creative license with historical facts? Or, does it bother you when facts area changed to fit the story in a movie or a book?

It used to. I don’t like it when authors put words into the mouths of famous people. For instance, I read a novel recently about nurses during the Civil War. The author had President Lincoln interact with the characters, carrying on conversations that “might” have happened. It didn’t make the scenes more real for me, in fact, they felt false. I can be a purest sometimes and I don’t like it when authors rewrite history to serve their stories, but I understand why they do it. I think they risk offending their audiences when they do because some people are unwilling to suspend their disbelief, especially if they are staunch historians.

What’s next for you after this present work?

I have several projects in the works. A novel set on the Oregon Coast, a collection of short stories in a rural setting, and a book with regional stories and recipes. I’m always working on something. Goldie’s Daughter will be out this summer, please watch for it.

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Shoshone Falls on a Perfect Spring Day

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Spring in southern Idaho can be treacherous, or it can be beautiful. Usually the wind blows so hard you think you are in Kansas, but today it is beautiful, so beautiful I wandered down to Shoshone Falls.

Sometimes called the “Niagara of the West,” Shoshone Falls is 212 feet high—45 feet higher than Niagara Falls—and flows over a rim 1,000 feet wide. Because water is diverted for irrigation and hydroelectricity, water levels diminish in the summer and fall making spring the best time to view the falls. Here is what it looked like today. As soon as the snow melts in the mountains, the water pouring over the falls will double.

This high desert isn’t always dry and boring. Today it is splendid and boasting of spring.

Checklist for Writers

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January is a month for new beginnings. While everyone is setting goals and making resolutions, I have a few of my own I’d like to share. Years of writers’ conferences, workshops, and book signings have taught me what to do as well as what not to do as I try to present myself as a professional writer.

  • Professional writers listen and observe. At workshops, they don’t talk unless they are the keynote speaker. They respect the presenter even if they think they know more than the speaker. They don’t hog the time or offer their opinions unless they are specifically asked.
  • Dress appropriately. Professional writers don’t show up in pajamas even if they write most of their books in pjs. They pay special attention to their appearance and put their best self forward. They brush their teeth, comb their hair and wear clean conservative clothes at presentations and book signings.
  • Be courteous. At book fairs, professional writers don’t shout out, “Hey you, buy my book.” Nor do they interrupt other authors talking about their own books by saying, “Hey, I’m a writer too.” Or “Hey, I take credit cards.” They wait their turn and are considerate.
  • Don’t gossip or complain. Professional writers are mindful of what they say in public. They don’t gossip or burn bridges. They know that the writer they pan today may be the best-selling author they’d like a back cover blurb from tomorrow. They know that the writer they berate may be the person they may have to chair a committee with some day.
  • Be on time. Professional writers realize that time is a precious commodity. They don’t make others wait. They call when they know they are going to be late and stick to schedules, no matter what.
  • Continue to learn. Professional writers know that writing is an ever-changing industry and that what worked five years ago isn’t going to work today. They read, study, and attend meetings and conferences to stay current in their industry.
  • Don’t brag. Professional writers check their egos at the door. They realize that everyone has an opinion or something to boast about. They don’t pontificate or shove their personal opinions on others.
  • Be dependable. Professional writers keep their promises. If they sign on to do something, they do it. They are honest and reliable. They finish what they start.
  • Exercise self-control. Professional writers control their emotions. They realize that writing is a subjective career. They know how to handle rejection. They don’t shout or scream in public if their feelings are hurt, or if they have a problem with another writer. They settle disputes privately with discretion.
  • Be present and give your all. Professional writers believe in themselves and write even when the writing is going badly. They believe in the process and they always do their best, knowing that their audience deserves only the best.

And lastly, professional writers know the difference between work and play, and count themselves blessed that they get to do something they love every day. As you begin the New Year, put your best foot forward. Be professional and enjoy the journey.

Celebrating Elvis Presley’s birthday.

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Bonnie Dodge's photo.

Today is Elvis Presley’s Birthday. He was born in Tupelo, MS on January 8, 1935. Maxine Foster’s dream was to visit Graceland on his birthday.

Excerpt from Waiting:

January brought with it more than snow. For the first time in a long time, January filled Maxine’s house with excitement as she planned her trip to Graceland. She waited until the last possible moment to tell her family that she was going. She was settled at Grace’s kitchen table the night before, sharing a rare cup of coffee with her daughter and granddaughter.

“Graceland?” Grace said, her mouth hanging open. “By yourself? Mother, that’s not like you.”

“I know,” Maxine said. “And don’t try and talk me out of it. This is something I’ve wanted to do all my life. And now I’m going to.”

“Does Daddy know?”

“No, and I don’t want you to tell him. He’ll ruin it. I haven’t had a vacation in years. I think it’s about time I got to do something I wanted.”

Does Maxine go? Find out in Waiting. Get your copy here.